Sandra Parker, PhD
Registered Psychologist, British Columbia #1200
As individuals increasingly use the media for personal and professional reasons (myself included), it is critical I take steps as a Registered Psychologist to protect the safety and privacy of current and former clients and maintain respect for the integrity of the profession. This document outlines my rationale and policies related to work conducted in the media (including, but not limited to radio, television, print, podcasts, blogs, vlogs and social media channels). I am bound by ethical rules and principles set forth by the College of Psychologists of British Columbia. Although many ethical dilemmas we face as psychologists are highly complex without clear “right” and “wrong” answers, I believe it’s important to share the rationale behind my choices and clearly articulate my practices in a transparent way. As new technology develops and changes, I may need to update this policy.
Why I Work With and Appear in the Media
Although managing ethical boundaries in the media can be particularly challenging for clinical psychologists, there are many reasons why I believe it can be beneficial to engage with the public in this way. Some of the key benefits are:
- To educate and inform the public in meaningful ways. Psychology is the study of human nature – the biological influences, social pressures and environmental factors at the heart of how we think, feel and behave – and its deep aim is to help us understand ourselves and live more authentic, resilient and connected lives. This is particularly important for the general public who may not have access to foundational psychological knowledge but would benefit from its insights. I see the media as an excellent platform to educate and inform the public about psychological principles and their application to real-life circumstances.
- To comment on recent or current events. Often things occur in the world that challenge us emotionally and can be hard to make sense of – everything from war to social justice issues to health and mental health concerns. Psychologists can serve to identify psychological blocks to our ability to understand the impacts of these events and support reflective processes that aid in coming to terms with reality and reducing feelings of overwhelm and apathy.
- To clarify misconceptions of mental health and mental illness. As a clinician, my main area of expertise is to assess and treat blocks to peoples’ freedom to feel and think and behave in healthy ways. I work to promote resilience and help people access inner strengths. In the media I can counter shaming, limiting narratives about mental health and invite the public to understand our shared human challenges across our differences, while honoring and respecting those differences.
- To enhance the reputation of the profession. I am a representative of the profession of psychology. As such, speaking in a media platform in an informed way can increase the reputation of psychology as a field and clarify to the public what we do and why it is so important.
Ways I manage ethical risk in the media
Given the benefits I see of working with the media, I choose to engage in meaningful and deliberate ways. The following are steps I take to maximize benefit and minimize harm to current and former clients, myself, and the field.
- My media work is always in a non-clinical role. All my work in the media is non-clinical in nature. It is not therapy. This means I provide information, education, comments and opinions to the public in a non-clinical context. Clinical practice is professional work within a clear doctor-patient relationship. Key factors that define the clinical role include a one-way fiduciary relationship (which means the relationship exists only to serve the needs of the client) and it involves payment to me for my professional services provided. The clinical role requires informed consent, meaning the client and I agree to certain conditions and expectations about the nature of our working relationship. It is confidential, meaning I cannot share identifying information about my work with a client, unless I have written consent to do so.
- Commenting on an issue versus a person. I may be asked to comment on current events or various life struggles (e.g., relationship issues, anxiety, depression). This is not psychotherapy nor is it a confidential clinical relationship. I do not and cannot give specific advice to anyone I have not evaluated in a clinical role, and if I have such a clinical role, I could not discuss it publicly. What I can do is discuss a general issue that someone is struggling with in a meaningful, informed way. I can speak in general terms but cannot give specific advice to a specific person for their specific situation. I cannot advise someone how they personally ought to address their depression, I can only say what, in general terms, could be helpful in a situation like that.
- Competence. Consistent with my governing Code of Ethics I only speak about issues and topics about which I have sufficient education, knowledge, and training.
- Refer for treatment or consultation. If you have seen or interacted with me in the media and would like further psychological help, I encourage you to find a psychologist or counselor or therapist who can work with you. Please do not contact me for psychological services, as I do not have a therapeutic or clinical relationship with you. I say this very clearly because I want to ensure you understand that your interaction with me is not clinical in nature. If you need help, I strongly encourage you to seek it, but please do so elsewhere.
Please Note: This Professional Media Policy was copied and adapted for my own use from the Professional Media Policy of Cortney S. Warren, PhD, who licensed it under a Creative Commons Attribution – Non-commercial- Share Alike 3.0 United States License, making it available to other mental health professionals.